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Why Omar Khadr needs permission to see his controversial sister

Omar Khadr walks back to his home after speaking to the media after being granted bail in Edmonton on May 7, 2015.
Omar Khadr walks back to his home after speaking to the media after being granted bail in Edmonton on May 7, 2015.

Omar Khadr is hoping an Edmonton judge will ease his bail conditions, and in particular, grant him unsupervised visits with his sister.

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Khadr was expected to make his case in court Thursday, but the hearing is now delayed until Sept. 15.

The former child soldier, who is on bail pending the appeal of his conviction by a U.S. military commission for five purported war crimes, currently has restricted visitation rights with Zaynab Khadr.

He must have written approval from his bail supervisor, and have an additional lawyer or supervisor present while meeting with her.

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Toronto-based lawyer, Warda Shazadi Meighen, who is not involved in the case, explains that the restricted access to Zaynab is largely because of her controversial history.

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“His legal team is really going to have to convince the judge that [the meetings] are not a threat to public safety,” Meighen said.

Who is Zaynab Khadr?

Zaynab is 37 years old and lives in Sudan with her husband and four children, according to court documents filed by Khadr in August.

“I would like to communicate with my sister and her family online,” the affidavit reads.

“As far as I am aware, Zaynab is not involved in any criminal activities and is frequently in contact with the Canadian Embassy in order to ensure that her paperwork is up to date.”

The court documents note that Zaynab has moved around to several countries, and recently was detained in Turkey over visa issues. She and her husband lived in Malaysia for some time after that.

In his statement, Khadr added his sister is planning on visiting Canada soon and he would like to visit her.

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Why is she so controversial?

Zaynab has been the source of headlines several times over the years.

Zaynab and her mother infuriated many Canadians by expressing support for the al-Qaida terrorist group. And according to CBC News, in 1999, Osama Bin Laden attended her wedding.

In 2005, Zaynab was investigated by RCMP for allegedly aiding al-Qaida, but no charges were filed.

Does Khadr have a case for seeing his sister?

In order to prove that Khadr should be able to meet unsupervised with his sister, he has to show the judge he is a “truly independent and stable adult,” Meighen says.

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It’s something that the Edmonton resident highlighted in his affidavit.

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“I am now an adult and I think independently,” the court document reads. “Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.”

The fact that Khadr has not broken any bail conditions will work in his favour, Meighen notes.

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Ultimately, the lawyer adds, it comes down to whether the judge thinks there is a risk to public safety if he meets with Zaynab.

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“It’s not an all-or-nothing scenario,” Meighen says, explaining that the lawyers and judge may be able to come up with a “half-way solution” that gives Khadr slightly more freedom, but not complete independence while visiting his sister.

What other changes does Khadr want to his bail settlement?

Khadr is also seeking unrestricted internet access and more freedom to move around Canada while on bail.

Meighen notes the considerations about internet access will be similar to unfettered access to his sister, and it will come down to public safety.

— With files from The Canadian Press